Layer Management as a Design Tool Priority

Altium Designer
|  Created: January 11, 2019  |  Updated: March 16, 2020

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same could be said for printed circuit boards. PCBs are similar to cities in that they contain pathways connecting components. Components have dimension into the surrounding air space, as well as into the thickness of the board itself. Hidden subsystems similar to underground wiring and cityscape piping reside within the thickness of the boards.

Printed circuit boards mimic cities with their layers of infrastructure. They are made by sandwiching layers of conductive copper in between layers of the nonconductive laminate. Holes called vias are drilled into, and through the boards, to connect conductive pathways from component to component. When graphically designing a printed circuit board, it is thinking of constructing layers will help guide the process.

Representation of layers in printed circuit board software prioritizes management of the design requirements. Having a software tool with layer management in the toolset moves designers ahead in getting boards ready for build. The logical arrangement of menu commands to follow design demands removes roadblocks. Roadblocks such as competing commands and hidden errors will frustrate any forward movement. Altium Designer has designer a layer stack management tool to move your process forward with ease.


Illogical Arrangement of Commands Defies Logic

It is painful when working within a printed circuit board software tool, and the delete key doesn’t work. Moving into selecting nets and other data on specific layers to delete in preparation for removing a layer doesn’t work. Vias become data that cannot be removed, and if they do disappear, they disappear from all layers.

Trying the ASCII dance on everything but the layers produce more, and now there are more errors to resolve. Changing layer definitions resolves some issues while creating others. Finding and setting visibility only leads to more frustration and pretty soon the cycle of hunt and peck puts PCB designers down the rabbit hole.

Printed circuit boards use layers to route components

Enable elegant complexity when designing with layers


Finding Solutions to Errors is Next to Impossible

Unable to isolate one layer in a printed circuit board design produces interdependencies that cause errors. Not only that, the errors can be seen but are unmanageable and therefore difficult to resolve. The underlying tool hasn’t partitioned specific tasks to the design at hand. Some commands work on the layer, while others do not. Pretty soon, the layer is unrecognizable.

Having to work through random commands, drilling down to find an obscure solutions finds confidence waning. Performing an ASCII dance on all but the layers of the design leaves uncertainty that board outlines remain. Afterward, analysis of layer definition when trying various commands leads to repetition and more uncertainty. Navigating to report files for manipulation of resultant commands makes complex work too intricate, leading to more errors. Errors in the overall design documents that may not be found until boards are built.


Consistent Command Structure With Intelligent Flow

A software tool that has PCB layer management broken into identifiable blocks is what’s needed to manage design priorities. Intelligently built by smart engineers who know how all the moving parts work both dependently and independently would go a long ways toward a useful tool. Nobody needs a fool writing code for layer management priorities.

Layer management in graphical design of printed circuit boards requires a process that can be managed by the EDA software tool. And EDA software tools that design commands and menus for building layers easily is a welcome relief. In fact, having those commands intuitively available when needed is even better. Able to add and refine information about printed circuit board layers within EDA design tools, intuitively and accurately, keeps design outcomes the priority.


Layer Stack Manager Provides All the Bells and Whistles

Altium Designer® has such a tool in it’s Layer Stack Manager. Intelligently designed with printed circuit assemblies in mind, the Layer Stack Manager is an integral part of Altium’s design environment. Taking into account engineer’s concerns for materials and IPC standards, there is a materials library.

Altium’s Layer Stack Manager allows easy editing in one interface

Altium’s Layer Stack Manager provides easily-used graphical interface

The Layer Stack Manager incorporates an Impedance Calculator within the interface, allowing the use of the material selection along with the location of traces when refining net widths. The environment uses graphical representations of the layer stack where cells are directly accessible for editing parameters of each characteristic in the stack.

Rather than struggling with tools that are difficult to use, move over to Altium Designer and it’s elegantly designed interface. The Layer Stack Manager integrates a graphical representation of the actual printed circuit board to use while you work. The interface allows adjustments for impedance based on materials accessible from a co-located library.

If you’d like to try setting up a layer stack for your newest printed circuit board design, get a free trial of Altium Designer. You can compare it’s usability alongside your current tool to readily see how far it will pull you into the future of elegant design tools.

And if you’d like to know more, talk to an expert at Altium today.

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About Author

PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

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